Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is President Emeritus and University Professor of Public Service. He served as the 15th president of The George Washington University for nearly two decades, from 1988 to 2007. He came to GW from the University of Hartford (CT), where he had been president for 11 years. Before assuming the presidency of Hartford, Trachtenberg served for eight years at Boston University as vice president for academic services and academic dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Earlier, in Washington, D.C., he was a special assistant for two years to the U.S. Education Commissioner, Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He has been an attorney with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and a legislative aide to former Indiana Congressman John Brademas.
He has written five books including two published in June 2008–Big Man On Campus: A University President Speaks Out on Higher Education (Simon and Schuster) and A Letter to the President of the United States on Higher Education (The Korn/Ferry Institute). His other books include, Thinking Out Loud: The Wit and Wisdom of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Reflections on Higher Education (New Yorker Cartoon Bank, 2006), Thinking Out Loud (Oryx Press, 1998), and Speaking His Mind (Oryx Press, 1994). He is co-editor of the book The Art of Hiring in America's Colleges & Universities (Prometheus Books, 1993). He authored chapters in the books Productivity & Higher Education (Peterson's Guide, 1992), Leaders on Leadership: The College Presidency (Jossey-Bass, 1988), and Academic Leaders as Managers (Jossey-Bass, 1982). His articles have appeared in publications such as The Educational Record, Phi Delta Kappan, The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges AGB Reports, Resources in Education, Journal for Higher Education Management, The College Board Review, the College Marketing Alert, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Trachtenberg also has served as a consulting editor to The Journal of Education and The Presidency.
Trachtenberg chaired the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA). He is a past chairman of the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic 10 Conference Presidents Council, and continues to be a member of both. He serves on the boards of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the D.C. Federal City Council. He also serves on the boards of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Executive Panel and the International Association of University Presidents. Trachtenberg chairs the Rhodes Scholarships Selection Committee for Maryland and the District of Columbia. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Board of Directors of the Chiang Chen Industrial Charity Foundation in Hong Kong, and a trustee of Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco.
Additionally, Trachtenberg had been appointed by the mayor to serve on the District of Columbia Tax Revision Commission, as well as the District of Columbia Committee to Promote Washington. He has served on the board of the Urban League of Greater Washington and as President of the American Association of University Administrators. In 1988, he was elected to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Presidents Commission.
He has received 15 honorary degrees in recognition of his contributions to higher education. These include an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from The George Washington University in 2008, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater Columbia University in 2007, an honorary Doctor of Public Administration degree from South Korea’s Kyonggi University, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Hanyang University in South Korea, and an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from the University of Hartford (CT) in 1989.
In 2008, Trachtenberg received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2005, the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce honored Trachtenberg with the D.C. Business Leader of the Year Award. In 2003, the Albert B. Sabin Institute presented him with its Humanitarian Award. In 2002, the University of New Haven honored him with an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Also in 2002 he became a fellow of the preeminent learned society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was awarded the U.S. Treasury Department's Medal of Merit. In 2001, Southern Connecticut State University honored Trachtenberg with an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. He was named a "Washingtonian of the Year 2000" of Washingtonian Magazine. In June 2000, he was decorated as a "Grand Officier Du Wissam Al Alaoui" by King Mohammed VI of Morocco. Also in the year 2000, he was awarded the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knight Grand Cross for Distinguished Service to Freemasonry and Humanity. In 1999, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Gratz College. Boston University also honored him in 1999 with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He received The Jewish National Fund 1999 "Tree of Life Award."
By Resolution of the Mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia, Dec. 4, 2006, was declared "Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Day," recognizing his 19 years of leadership at GW and in the city. Similarly, by Proclamation of the City and County of San Francisco, February 2, 1999, was proclaimed "Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Day in San Francisco !" By Resolution of the Council of the District of Columbia, January 22, 1998, was declared "Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Day" in honor of President Trachtenberg's commitments to minority students, scholarship programs, public school partnerships and community service.
In 1997, Trachtenberg received the U.S. Department of State Secretary's Open Forum Distinguished Public Service Award. In 1997, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Mount Vernon College. Also in 1997, he was awarded the Grand Cross (highest honor of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry); a portrait was dedicated and placed in the Hall of Honor at the House of the Temple. In 1996, the Odessa State Medical University (Ukraine) awarded Trachtenberg the Honorary Doctor of Medicine degree. The American Association of University Administrators presented Trachtenberg with the 1996 Distinguished Service Award. He received the 1996 B'nai B'rith Humanitarian Award. In 1995, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Richmond College (London). In 1995, he was awarded the John Jay Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement by Columbia University. He received the 1995 Newcomen Society Award. Trachtenberg was honored by the American Jewish Congress, receiving the 1995 Spirit of Democracy Award.
In 1993, the Washington, D.C. Urban League named him "Father of the Year." In 1992, Trachtenberg received the International Salute Award in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Also in 1992 he received the Hannah G. Solomon Award from the National Council of Jewish Women. Additionally, in 1990, Trachtenberg was awarded the University Medal of Highest Honor from Kyung Hee University in Korea. In 1988, the Connecticut Bar Association honored him with its Distinguished Public Service Award, and he was recognized by the Hartford NAACP for his contributions to the education of minority students. He received a 1987 Human Relations Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Trinity College (CT) in 1986. In 1984 he was presented The Mt. Scopus Award from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1982 he was celebrated by the Connecticut Region of Hadassah with the Myrtle Wreath Award. Trachtenberg was named one of the Top 100 Leaders in the American Academy in a 1978 Change magazine poll.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Trachtenberg graduated from P.S. 254 and James Madison High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University in 1959, a Juris Doctor from Yale University in 1962, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University in 1966. In 1968, he was selected as a Winston Churchill Traveling Fellow for study in Oxford, England. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Trachtenberg and his wife, Francine Zorn Trachtenberg, have two sons: Adam and Ben.